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Published: October 11th 2014
Today we started the long drive south with a visit to a ski resort. Yup, a ski resort in Morocco - I feel a little stupid for not knowing that such things exist but the Sahara does not usually share countries with ski resorts.
Fortunately the sun was shining and the shops selling postcards of snow-covered mountains seemed a little incongruous. The whole town seemed to have been modelled after a European ski resort with Swiss-style chalets and gardens everywhere.
Odd but quite nice to stop for tea (they sold actual tea, not just the usual coffee or hot mint-water with enough sugar to put anyone in a coma that is usually the only thing on offer), before heading on.
Next stop was unscheduled and brought about by someone screeching that there were monkeys next to the bus. The most exciting Moroccan wildlife I had seen up until this point (not that I have anything against donkeys.) A whole troop of Barbary Macaques were casually meandering through the woods at the side of the road. Casually for them but obviously going faster that we could get off the bus for photos. My only attempts were blurry blobs that
(not mine, he was neither photogenic, nor willing to pose!)
could easily be mistaken for dogs.
The guide was convinced that whistling at them would bring them back, but unfortunately this was factually incorrect (not to mention quite ridiculous to witness) so there is near-zero photographic evidence of them. Very cute however.
We were facing a very long drive down to Erfoud, near the Algerian border. An eight-hour drive that was enlivened by many sightings of donkeys, and the guide's (very) detailed pros and cons list of whether Berber children should be forced to give up their nomadic lifestyle in order to attend school.
Arriving in Erfoud we were rather glad to have the opportunity to wash the sand and heat of ourselves before heading out for more heat and sand (what else does one do in the desert?!)
Obviously catering to tourism but still a lot of fun, we got 4-wheel drives out into the desert for the start of the trek into the Merzouga dunes. Being on a tight schedule (not to mention a tight budget) we didn't get to do the 2 or 3 day camel treks that were on offer, we simply settled for a sunset camel trek up into the dunes.
Well, it would have been a sunset trek if there had been any chance of seeing the sun. Despite being told that it had been a bad year for rain, and that there had been no real rain for 5 years (!), it decided to start raining as soon as we were on the camels. My whole first half-hour of pictures are murky, overcast and feature the genius in front of me who had actually thought to bring a plastic poncho to the Sahara!
Quite an experience to have. Once at the stopping point we had to climb a dune which in reality couldn't have been more than about 30 metres high, but took several people quite a long time (even with the guides shoving them) to ascend. I have nothing but admiration for the Berber guides who do it so effortlessly.
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